The St Cuthbert’s Way starts at the Melrose Tourist Information Centre. You can get your proof sheet stamped here but bring your own, their printer wasn’t working very well when they last printed a batch. After crossing the Eildon Hills, which you’ll be able to see until the start of the Cheviots, the Way drops into Newtown St Boswells where there’s a Coop, public loo, bank and the Lunch Box sandwich shop. Which is fine for cheap fuel, but if the budget allows and your stomach will hold out then wait until St Boswells. Here you’ll find the Main Street Trading Company, which combines an award winning bookshop with a very nice cafe. After finally leaving the banks of the River Tweed, the Way follows the Dere Street Roman road – a surprisingly wiggly route – to the Harestanes Visitor Centre. You can get your next stamp here but it’s only open between 10 and 5. Even the toilets are locked out of hours. We wildcamped on the other side of the Teviot.
The next stretch goes through some lovely woods, rolling farmland and past the ruins of Cessford Castle but the first place with facilities is Morebattle. Here there are public loos, a shop (closed weekend afternoons) and the Templehall Hotel pub, which serves food and has accommodation. From Morebattle, the Way climbs steeply up to Wideopen Hill, the highest and halfway point of the route. This section has some viciously steep ladder stiles over walls and we met a Norwegian the next day who had hurt his knee coming down one, so be extra careful.
We stayed at the recently reopened Youth Hostel in Kirk Yetholm, which is also the place to get your next stamp. This is closed between 10am and 5pm, getting your proof is always a challenge. If you want to cook at the hostel, there’s a very good shop a few minutes walk away in Town Yetholm, which is open 7am till 6pm except Sundays when it’s 9am till 4pm. Otherwise it’s The Plough in Town Yetholm, which reputedly has good straightforward food, or the Border Arms Hotel in Kirk Yetholm, which is overpriced and over fussy.
Next time: To Lindisfarne
This is part 2 of useful information gleaned from our extended 110 mile St Cuthbert’s Way walk from Peebles to Lindisfarne in September 2012. Part 1 is here.
At St Mary’s Loch, we picked up the Southern Upland Way for a couple of days. This is a well marked route which we really enjoyed. After a few miles along the loch, there’s a 13km section from Dryhope Tower to Traquair which is quite remote feeling, boggy upland with a bit of forest thrown in. It rained a lot this day so we were very grateful for Pat and Brian Hudson’s hospitality at the Quair View guest house in Traquair, all for a flat £25 pppn with breakfast. We ate that evening at the Traquair Arms Hotel just over a mile away in Innerleithen. There are a lot of pubs and hotels that will happily serve you very average food for £10+ a plate. The Traquair Arms serves very good food for a similar price so treat yourself there instead.
We took a break the next day and went back to Innerleithen. The Whistlestop Cafe is a very good daytime cafe with especially nice soups. Open on Sundays too. The Alpine Bikes shop (possibly closed down) might help you stock up on energy bars and there’s a good sized Coop opposite. Innerleithen has a few good secondhand book shops and is generally a more interesting place than it had been made out to be.
The next day was a long section of Southern Upland Way from Traquair to Melrose. It starts with about 400m of ascent and then continues along an east-west ridge with fantastic views. Then you drop through forest to the Tweed at Yairbrig (the Airy Fairy B&B was here at the time but we didn’t stop so I can’t comment). So far so fantastic. I wish we’d left the marked way here and followed the Tweed to Melrose. But we continued up and down to Gala Hill above Galashiels. I wish we’d left the marked way here and skirted around Gala Hill before dropping towards Melrose. But we didn’t, we followed the way down into Galashiels and then back up the other side of Gala Hill before arriving at Melrose around 7.30. A long day. But the Old Bank House B&B made up for it – very good accommodation, right on the (quiet) main street and the best breakfast of the whole trip.
We took another break day in Melrose. Although it’s a very tourist oriented town with shops which cater to that, there’s still enough practical stuff to get by. A small Coop, a Spar and a Boots are about the extent of the chains but there are also fishmongers, butchers, bakeries and a good deli – the Country Kitchen – where we stocked up on porridge oats, dried fruit and a few treats. The Bakehouse sells cheap sandwiches and hot snacks. Between Monday and Thursday, the Station Hotel currently serves main courses for £6 with accompanying starters and desserts for £2 each – perfectly reasonable food and keenly priced. There are lots of other places to eat in Melrose including a fish and chip chop and an expensive looking Italian place in the old station – worth visiting the station to walk up onto the platform to watch what is now the town bypass – weird feeling. We chose the Kings Arms Hotel because we were late on the first night and it was still serving – turned out to be nice food.
Next time: The St Cuthberts Way itself
St Cuthbert’s Way is a 62 mile waymarked walk from Melrose in Scotland via the Cheviot Hills of Northumberland to Lindisfarne, also known as Holy Island. Theo and I walked an extended St Cuthberts Way in September 2012, starting in Peebles and using a couple of sections of the Southern Upland Way to connect us in at Melrose. I’m not intending to blog the whole thing, but just to share some of the places we used and liked along the way in the hope that this might help others doing the walk
We started off at the Old Mill camp site at West Kyloe Farm just off the A1 and with our end point of Lindisfarne in sight a few miles away. This is a clean and tidy site with excellent facilities which mostly caters to motorhomes but will take tents by arrangement. The owner, Teresa Smalley, was very helpful, let us store our car at the site until we got back ten days later and even gave us a lift to the bus in the morning. The only thing to bear in mind if you’re on foot is that the camping area is about a half mile from the road.
We took three buses to get from the Beal crossroads to Peebles. It all worked out fine but I would suggest using Traveline Scotland‘s phone helpline to plan a route like this as my internet searches had failed to track down some services that would have made life simpler if I’d known about them earlier.
From Peebles, we took a section of the John Buchan Way over Cademuir Hill and into the Manor Valley. This was a really great short walk. We really wanted to be in the Manor valley so we could walk south over the hills to Meggett Water and the Southern Upland Way, but accommodation in this dead end valley is relatively hard to come by. The best place is Castlehill Knowe B&B but their rooms were fully booked. However Sue and Roger kindly made space for us to camp in their garden, gave us access to indoor facilities and cooked us breakfast, all for the price of a tent pitch. It would probably be possible to wild camp further up the valley, but a lot of it is owned by a very large egg producer who didn’t sound too co-operative.
The walk from Manor to Meggett is only signed at either end but isn’t difficult to follow and has great views of Dollar Law, one of the highest hills in the Borders. We ended the day at the Tibbie Shiels Inn campsite on St Mary’s Loch. This is in a lovely location but facing three valleys running from SW to NW so it gets a lot of weather. And did while we were there. The facilities are basic and it was feeling a bit end of season, so we decided not to spend a rest day there and continued on after one night. [Tibbie Shiels closed in 2015 under curious circumstances.]
Next time: the Southern Upland Way